Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Little Wine Tasting Last Night

Sweet Salty Rolled Flank Steak
We had some new friends over last night and introduced them to some wines and wine and food pairings. It is a subject I am passionate about, as one can get the wrong impression about some wines if they are tasted alone, or with the wrong food for the wine. These new friends are involved in a fund raiser in town, where there will be a lot of wines to taste, with appetizers presented as well. My goal last evening was to have this couple recognize how much different a wine can taste when alone, versus with a food.  Then, tasted with a food that really does not pair well and again with a food that does pair well. We tasted 5 wines: a California Cabernet, an Australian Pinot Noir, a German Riesling Spatlese, a French Sauternes and a Warre's Warrior Port. I was not looking for very high-end wines, but mainly for wines that taste very good for their price range.

Anita's Pesto Crostini
A little about my wine knowledge. I started learning about wine about 24 years ago. I am no sommelier, and have had no professional schooling on wine. When I met my husband and found he was interested in wine, we began going to local wine tastings. We bought a few bottles here or there, to try them out and find out what our taste was. We are lucky enough to both really prefer the same types of wines, in general. I bought Hugh Johnson's Wine Atlas of the World and read it cover to cover, taking notes all along the way. We continued tasting, and using my notes, went looking for wines Hugh Johnson wrote about. I ordered the Wine Spectator and read them religiously for years. I found that the ratings they gave for wines coincided with what I would rate those same wines; another felicitous happenstance. We began buying some wines with a little more forethought. I love to cook, so we had some lovely dinners, paired with some equally lovely wines. I got a better sense of what different wines tasted like, and was better able to pair the right wine with the foods. I made 5-course dinners, serving at least 4 and sometimes 5 different wines. Practice makes perfect. My food and wine pairings got better. My taste has refined.

Green Pea, Feta and Mint Spread
We began our wine tasting and learning in Florida 24 years ago, have traveled all over the US and lived in 8 states and soon-to-be 12 different houses since then. A few years back we chanced upon a wine store where they specialized in the road less traveled, so to speak. Wines from lesser known regions and of excellent quality were the norm, and we were introduced to smaller areas such as Faugeres, in France. I fell in love with the two wines we tried from Faugeres. The people at the store were extremely helpful. We came away with 2 bottles of this, 2 bottles of that and began filling our brand new 600 bottle cellar. More recent discoveries have been Torrontes and Albarino. I discovered a wonderful Red Zin from Pezzi King. I love French, South African and Australian wine styles best, but have had great wines from all over the world.

Savory Blue Cheese Coins with Apricot Jam

Some of the appetizers I made for last night's tasting were the Green Pea, Feta and Mint Spread, served with either Triscuit Black Pepper crackers or slices of toasted, fresh No-Knead Bread. I made a wonderful broiled flank steak, sliced it thinly and rolled the slices. I served little Savory Cheddar Crackers with a dab of Apricot Jam. I served more slices of No-Knead Bread spread with Basil Pesto, Parmesan Cheese and broiled briefly. I set out a tray with salami and cheese.

Some things we found were that the Green Pea Spread went perfectly with the German wine if spread onto the toasted No-Knead bread, but not if spread on the Black Pepper Triscuit crackers. The salami and cheese tray was best paired with the German Spatlese, though they also went well with the Cabernet; less so with the Pinot Noir. The Cheddar Crackers went okay with the Pinot Noir, but far better with the Cabernet. The rolled Flank Steak went well with either of the red wines - no surprise.

The dessert wines were tasted alone. I served a tiny dessert but it was not meant to pair with wine. If one has never tried a good dessert wine, such as a Sauternes, Trockenbeerenauslese, Ice Wine, Muscat or a good Port, the chances are about 50-50 whether they are enjoyed or not. This couple loved both the dessert wines, which was great. A truly great Port is a magical drink, but the Warre's Warrior is about as similar to a really good port as one can hope for, and at a fraction of the cost of a good aged vintage. A good time was had by all. The remnants of a lovely table are seen in this photo above, taken though my (empty) port glass.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.